The Pachinko Empire Strikes Back
In late 2008 Sankyo, a leading manufacturer of pachinko machines, released a new range – “Fever Star Wars—Advent of Darth Vader”. This range of machines has all of the Star Wars bells and whistles — illuminating life-size lightsaber, rotating-dome astromechs, blaring Star Wars score and sound effects, TIE fighter canopy motifs, and a red-eyed Darth Vader mask dropping into view during play.
The roll-out of the new machines to pachinko parlors nationwide was supported by a saturation advertising campaign called “Fever Star Wars” involving billboards and television commercials depicting an army of Darth Vaders attacking Japan. The collection of Sankyo Star Wars television commercial footage is embedded below which shows five of the commercials that had aired constantly in Japan when the new machines were launched.
The “Fever Star Wars” advertisements contained in the above footage can be briefly summarised as follows:
- Darth Vader guided by a tour guide drawing his lightsaber when a group of tourists surround him
- A large bell in a Japanese temple morphs into Darth Vader’s head in front of a bunch of temple goers
- Vader-head bomber planes descend en masse on Japan
- Vader enters a room full of Stormtroopers and stabs a holographic projection of Japan with his lightsaber
- An army of Vader heads rolling off of a robotic assembly line
According to the press release extracted below it appears that Sankyo had the blessing of Lucasfilm to use the Star Wars theme, undoubtedly at the cost of a bucket-load of cold hard cash. Such endorsement probably wasn’t the case for Hagoromo Foods when they broadcast their “Star Wars” sea chicken commercial back in 1978.
Hasn’t George Lucas already milked enough out of the Star Wars brand? The original trilogy, the re-mastered re-releases, the three prequels, the toys, the Lego, the video games, the cartoons, the comic books, the novels, the lunchboxes, the pillowcases and all the other paraphernalia. Apparently there is even a Star Wars musical.
Extract of new product press release from Sankyo
SANKYO Co., Ltd. is about to release a new pachinko machine Fever Star Wars—Advent of Darth Vader. The new machine will roll out at pachinko parlors nationwide from December 2008 onward.
Lucasfilm’s full cooperation
Star Wars is an immensely popular epic space opera. The series of six Star Wars movies released since the 1977 debut have been major hits worldwide. The popularity of Star Wars is once again on the rise in Japan this year coinciding with the 30th anniversary since the release of the first Star Wars movie in Japan. In creating Fever Star Wars—Advent of Darth Vader, SANKYO benefited from the full cooperation of Lucasfilm covering all elements indispensable for development of a pachinko machine, including use of clips from the original six movies, modifying the characters to suit the pachinko medium, and production of a movie exclusively for pachinko. This new pachinko machine transports players to the spectacular universe of Star Wars.
Darth Vader at the heart of the presentation
For this new pachinko machine, the awesomely powerful iconic character of Darth Vader, who is synonymous with the Star Wars series, dominates the action. As the game approaches the climax, an enormous yakumono figurine of Darth Vader appears to create a truly thrilling experience for the player. The jackpot probability increases whenever Darth Vader appears, indicating the rising probability of success or during “reach action.” Positioning Darth Vader at the heart of the presentation, this pachinko machine achieves high-impact gaming characteristics with an immediate appeal for players.